The Resurgence of Direct Mail


Beginning to plan a marketing or advertising campaign is never an easy thing. Humans are unpredictable, technology evolves, and budgets fluctuate through the years. It might feel impossible to figure exactly what might be the best move for your business, especially when we are faced with so many ways to reach out to our audiences.

One of the biggest mistakes businesses are making right now is highlighted by the debate over digital marketing versus direct mailings. We’ve been told for years that direct mail, often described as “snail mail” due to its delivery time, is dying or dead. But the statistics just don’t add up. As the effectiveness of the digital mailing begins to show a decline, direct mail is growing to support the loss.

As our lives become increasingly consumed by digital media in the way of instant access to news, social media, music, movies, etc., we are giving less and less time and attention to the messages we do receive. According to numerous studies, the average look-time on an e-mail is just two seconds! Brand recall is the same—with only 44% of people being able to recall what they’ve seen in a digital mailing (compared to over 70% for a direct mailing!).

One of the largest antagonists in this arena? Spam mail. A clear majority of people feel that they receive far too many e-mails—even on a non-busy day there simply just is not enough time to read and retain all the information that pours into our digital inboxes. Many have even abandoned their e-mail addresses entirely due to an overabundance of e-mails!

Comparatively, direct mail has been on the decline. This means that there is less coming to our physical mailboxes and, therefore, we have more time to look at what we receive. While well over 74 Trillion e-mails are sent every year, only 13.8 Billion physical mailings are sent. And while, as mentioned above, the average lifespan of an e-mail is two seconds, a direct mail lasts roughly 17 days!

Another reason direct mail is making a comeback? Nostalgia! It might sound strange to some, but if you grew up in an era where getting physical mail was prominent (but due to technology, it no longer is), getting a direct mailing can feel fun and exciting! This means that more people are spending quality time with direct mailings—almost 80% of people respond to a direct mail immediately while less than half will use a click-through in a digital mailing.

Direct mail is also highly targetable. Data analytics have the key to direct mail evolving past the traditional coupon mailing. Contrary to the ancient concept of blast campaigns that marketed to tens of thousands of customers with little data and the ever-classic “Dear Current Resident” greeting, today’s direct mail can be hyper-focused to a specific audience, within specific areas, that are currently in the market to buy. This means that the cost of direct mail is lowered—rather than sending out 10 to 20-thousand pieces with each campaign, businesses can send significantly smaller piece counts and achieve dedicated results.

It has been studied that consumers find Direct Mail to be more trustworthy than digital mailings. Fire Starter Brands has access to over 5,700 of the highest volume tour operators, wholesale travel planners and product managers around the globe including those known for bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to North America every year from Asia, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Europe and Australia. We also have the ability to sort and filter those addresses to meet your specific and growing needs. 

tourism consultant marketing expert

Stephen Ekstrom is a tourism marketing and consulting pro whose influence reaches over 500,000,000 travelers every year. He's been profiled by the New York Times and appeared on CBS, NBC and NY1. He is a respected leader within the travel trade and has served as a board member, expert panelist, committee chair, mentor and program facilitator.

Fire Starter Brands, founded by Ekstrom in 2010, has cultivated a network that includes more than 21,000 opted-in domestic and international travel trade buyers, advising and assisting smart travel industry suppliers and destination marketers. Stephen currently lives in South Florida with his two dogs, Match & Rudy.